Parashat D’varim

Friday, August 9, 2019 /8 Av, 5779
Parashat D’varim Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22

Dear Friends,

How do we respond to the brokenness of our world?

Each year, Tisha B’Av calls us to consider just that. Tisha B’av is the darkest day of the Jewish calendar. On this date, the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, and the Romans destroyed the second Temple in 70 CE. In 1492, Spain expelled all Jews on Tisha B’av, and World War One broke out on Tisha B’av in 1914, setting the stage for WW2 and the Holocaust. On Tisha B’av in 1942, Germany began mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, in route to Treblinka. One day a year, we are invited to sit in the pain of these tragedies, to mourn, fast, and offer the words of Lamentations.

Tisha B’av has not always been observed within Reform communities. The Reform movement struggled to figure out how to mourn for the loss of the Temple without longing for a third Temple to be rebuilt. We are content with our holy spaces of worship within our communities. That is why we, unlike other movements, call our spiritual homes temples.

In recent years, more reform temples have begun to observe Tisha B’av. We do this not out of longing to return to Temple times, but rather as a reminder of all the terrible events that can unfold when we give in to hatred and fear.

We observe Tisha B’av for another reason as well. Throughout history, we have been through so much, and yet we still remain. Our faith and our community has adapted and grown out of each challenge. When the temples were destroyed, and animal sacrifice came to a halt, we found a new way to come together as a people and to worship our God. When we were expelled from Spain and so many other countries, we found ways to rebuild Jewish community in the areas in which we came to live. Despite pogroms and the holocaust, we dared to dream of reestablishing a Jewish homeland, which has been our inheritance for the past 71 years.

Tisha B’av is a solemn day, but it is also a day of hope. It teaches us that we have within us a strength so much greater than we could have imagined. Our ability to adapt, our values, faith and strong sense of community offer us the tools we need to thrive well into the future.

This Saturday night, we will gather at Temple Beth El with Congregation Ner Tamid and Temple Menorah to commemorate Tisha B’av. It will be an evening of conversation, prayer, strength and hope. I hope you to see you there.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Cassi Kail